Ask any London dance fan which star has the most excitement and fascination surrounding them at the moment and surely all would answer, Natalia Osipova. Since joining the Royal Ballet as a principle in late last year dance lovers have been whipped into a frenzy trying to get hold of elusive tickets to see her dance. It was with this kind of hype in mind there was a tangible buzz at the London Coliseum or the first night of this four night run of Solo For Two, featuring news works from three choreographers.
Sparks of applause rings out around the auditorium as the curtain goes up to revealed Ivan Vasilieiv naked, bar some flesh coloured shorts and Osipova and in a short shift light coloured dress, contrasting starkly with her raven hair colour.
Mercy starts with rigid, aggressive fighting movements evocative of a violent relationship and creates immediate tension. It later transforms into a softer but still physically demanding piece. As a first time viewer of this duo’s unique chemistry I am struck by the apparentness of Osipova’s Bolshoi training, her movements have an extraordinary fluidity, with her expressive face conveying everything between pain and joy but with an incredible control. Interestingly, Cherkaoui’s piece is the only one where Osipova wears pointe shoes and perhaps sits closest to the classical genre. The entire evening goes on to experiment with a classical/contemporary fusion that demonstrates the pair’s desire to be adventurous and versatile, stepping away from their classical environment.
Ohad Naharin’s Passo is perhaps the most unusual (and some would even say unremarkable) piece of the evening. It may demonstrate the duo’s ability to be whacky and fearless in their capabilities but to be simple, it is a bit silly. There are strange convulsions, jerky movements and even duck walks but they do seem to be having a good time even if it leaves the audience a little baffled.
Thankfully, Facada is the most memorable addition to the evening displaying wonderfully theatricality, choreographed by Pita Arthur and it certainly an experience that will stay with me for a long time to come. Facada is “stab” in Portuguese and the piece begins with a knife being thrust into a pot plant and is a recurring motif throughout. Osipova is a youthful and excitable bride, leaping and jumping around the stage with powerful athleticism, she is full of joy and blissful anticipation. Her happiness is short lived, however when Vasiliev jilts her at the altar; he screams and runs before plunging himself into one of the dress circle boxes in an impressive bit of gymnastics. It is a largely comic performance with dark undertones but more than anything it is clear how much the couple are relishing not having to dance within their normal strict classical boundaries.
I particularly enjoyed the Osipova’s elation in the dénouement of Arthur’s piece in which she has killed Vasiliev’s character in an act of revenge and takes awesome pleasure in dancing on his grave; she is giddy, wild and liberated which seems symbolic of the evening itself.